Long Time, No Blog and November Currently

I've been gone from blogging for a long time! Sorry to disappear on you. Since I retired, I don't have classroom news to share. I definitely need to get back on the horse, though, so I will use Farley's Currently to jumpstart my return!

I love home improvement shows, and my tv spends lots of time tuned into HGTV. You might think that my home has benefited from all this watching, but not so much.

Our local university had their first game tonight and came out with a win. So glad to have women's basketball to look forward to again! We have a new coach, 3 seniors, and 7 freshmen this season. Thinking it might be a rebuilding year.

I've got puppy fever. Still. Still not doing anything about it.

I've got new car fever. Doing something about this one, though. Tomorrow! I will update you later.

Here's my yummy pin!


I made this and took it to a friend's house when she invited us to dinner. It was yummy! If you decide to make it, though, cool the cake, turn it out on a plate, use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the cake, and then pour on the glaze. Trust me, it will be much better than the way the recipe describes!

Here's where you can find the recipe: http://www.agirlandagluegun.com/2013/10/food-friday-with-the-benson-street.html

Now get yourself back to Farley's blog and don't forget to follow the rule of three!

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Winner! Winner!

Today I get to announce the winner of this book!


Ten people left a comment on the post. I used a random number generator to pick for me.

Here is comment number 5:

Congratulations, Teach80. I will be emailing you for your address so I can get your book on its way!




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Currently September

It is September first, and that means it's time to link up with Farley for her monthly Currently!


  • I am listening to (and watching) the Perry Mason movie marathon on the Hallmark Channel. The 80's styling is cracking me up!
  • I am loving the fabulous produce I am getting from Bountiful Baskets coop. I pay $15 plus a $1.50 handling fee and in return, I get fabulous fruit and veggies! The last basket had a bunch of spinach, a head of romaine lettuce, 4 tomatoes,  zucchini, 4 green bell peppers, a bunch of bananas, 4 small avocados, a bag of carrots, 5 ears of corn, 4 Asian pears, 6 peaches, and 7 Hatch green chiles. Click the link to see if it's available where you live!
  • I have been eating healthier, but now it is time to put some movement with it. Maybe this 100 degree weather will cool off and I can walk without melting.
  • That healthy eating plan is fine and dandy, but I sure am wanting some ice cream. I might splurge tomorrow and get some Orange Leaf frozen yogurt.
  • I need to get started on a packing list for my trip to Destin, Florida at the end of the month. I can't wait to see some beautiful beaches and water!
  • My three things for me are easy: Start walking, get busy on a writing project I have set for myself, and get that storage unit cleared out!
Make sure you visit Farley's page and check out what everyone else is up to and don't forget the rule of three!



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A Book to Spark Personal Narrative Pre-writing

Last week I wrote about Reading Workshop; this week I'm focusing on Writing Workshop. I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for her Workshop Wednesday.


I love teaching writing. That hasn't always been the case, even though I've always been a writer myself. About 20 years ago, I attended a writing institute that change me completely as a teacher. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend that you devote the 3 weeks and participate in an Abydos Learning International (formerly known as The New Jersey Writing Project in Texas) institute.

One of the things I learned about during my writing institute is the importance of pre-writing. Give a kid a pencil and a piece of paper and tell him to write, and most likely he will complain that he doesn't have anything to write about. It is so worth it to spend some time up front to gather ideas. I love using trade books for this purpose.

I personally like to start the year off with a personal narrative. Most of my students come to me without much writing experience. Research teaches us that students are more likely to work hard on something that has personal meaning to them. So I use this book to help gather seed ideas students can use for that first piece of writing and for the rest of the year in writing workshop.


Click on the picture to read about the book at Amazon.

First I read students the book. Then we use listing to generate a lot of memories. Students make a list of people who are important to them. Then next to each person's name, they write a memory associated with that person. For example, I would list my Dad and then write "singing while Dad played the guitar" as my memory. It is incredibly important for you as the teacher to model this for the students. Next each idea (not developed at all - simply the idea) is written on a strip of paper. Finally, we use card stock or construction paper to fold a memory box to hold the ideas. If you Google origami box, you will find many sites with instructions.

To read more ideas for establishing writing workshop, click on graphic at the top of the page to go visit Ideas by Jivey's linky!

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Reader's Workshop - the Mini-Lesson

Learn how to plan all the steps in a mini-lesson for reader's workshop.

I absolutely love reader's workshop. I started using it somewhere around 19 years ago when I was searching for a way to reach all the varied levels of readers in my third grade class. I continued to refine my understanding of it during the following years. 
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Monday Made It

I got sidetracked last week, so I didn't get around to making my project for Monday Made It. But today, I got busy.

I'm not going back to school this year because I retired in June. So this Made It is for my house.

My living room is decorated with all sorts of interesting stars. However, I had this one little space that needed something.

My mom died four years ago and while cleaning out her house, I put this picture aside, thinking I would do something with it one day.


First I removed the angel picture, and then I took the hardware off and spray painted the frame blue.


Then I spray painted the hardware oil rubbed bronze. (I tried removing the pink paint, but the finish underneath was a bright brass - not my style at all.)


Next I traced a star on some linen fabric . . . 


. . .filled in the star with red craft paint (forgot to take a picture of this part) and grabbed all the reddish colored buttons I could find. I used them to fill in the star.


While the glue dried, I reattached the hardware.



 And here is the finished project! I love it.


Now go see all the other great Monday Made Its at 



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Must Read Mentor Text

Today I am linking up with Collaboration Cuties for this:


I love teaching writing and getting kids to love writing themselves. But many times, I hear kids say, "I don't have anything to write about!" It is incredibly important for us to spend time at the beginning of the year helping students gather possible topics for writing.

One of my favorite ways to gather ideas is by sharing a mentor text. I love to use this one, because every student can relate and have a story to tell.


After we read, we brainstorm a list in our writer's notebooks of times we got in trouble.

I model with my writer's notebook, then give kids time to make their own lists. After that, each kid shares an idea they wrote. I make sure to model adding to my list after being inspired by a student's sharing. Then we take time to do a quick-write about just one of the ideas. Then students gather in groups of 2-3 and share their writing.

This isn't the only time we work on gathering ideas for our writer's notebooks, but it is one of the kids' favorites. This entry is often the one they select for their first full process writing piece.

It is so incredibly important to write and share along with your students. It helps create a community of writers in your classroom. You won't believe the risks your kids will take if you are ready to take the same risks alongside them.



Now, go check out all the other great ideas in the Collaboration Cuties linky!


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August Currently

I can't believe it is already August and time to link up again with Farley for her monthly Currently!


  • I love being able to be home to watch morning TV.
  • Now that it is summer, I am back on my night owl schedule. I love to stay up until midnight and then sleep until 8 or 9.
  • I have started a new healthy eating plan. I need to drop some weight and work on all those other numbers!
  • My life is good right now. There is nothing I am really wanting. Although I wouldn't turn down a golden retriever puppy. The house is a little quiet since we lost Desi.
  • I need to get busy and get blogging! It is so easy to sit back and waste time doing other things. I have made a list of topics I want to blog about. Now I have to get busy and do it! First up - a Monday Made It!
  • My back to school must haves
    • A great coffee thermos to keep that cup hot all morning. This one is amazing! It keeps my coffee hot for several hours and warm until noon!
    • I need new pens every year. These have had some great reviews!
    • I loved using my Thirty One organizing utility tote and thermal lunch bag. Stylish and so well made!
Now get over to Farley's place and join in the fun. Don't forget the rule of 3!



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Another Blogger Meetup!

Wow, I am having fun this summer meeting online friends in person!

We had another meetup last night. Jennifer from 4mulaFun came to San Antonio to present at CAMT. I can never resist the chance to meet up with bloggers I follow, so we met up at La Gloria to visit.



From left to right:
Jennifer from 4mulaFun, Charlotte from Fabulous 5th Grade Fun, Veronica from Teaching With the Middle Sister, Daliene from Hello Adventure, and me.

La Gloria has fabulous Mexican street food and tasty, tasty adult beverages. I had the tacos al pastor (marinated pork spit roasted and served with pineapple, onions & cilantro) and a Mangonada (fresh mango, cantaloupe, Herradura Reposado, and Cointreau)  - delicioso! What a great place to meet and talk about new jobs, moving, blogging, Teachers Pay Teachers, pros/cons of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. . . we covered it all!

Thanks, friends, for the fun time!

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How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

This post is not educationally related. Just wanted to warn you up front.

Monday, I had to say goodbye to my sweet Desi. I posted about what was going on with her here.

Desi had been doing well since her surgery. She played bitey-head with Lucy, ate well (her Desi dinner dance complete with roo-roos was a fixture at mealtime), and nudged my hand every time I thought I was done petting her and she thought otherwise. Friday evening, we had some buddies over for game night, and Desi mooched treats and pets all night.

But Monday morning, as we got up, she collapsed. I checked immediately and found her gums almost completely white. I got her up, in the car, and to the vet, just as they opened. I told them she was having another major bleed, and they got me in a room right away. The vet came in, listened to me, checked her gums, and sighed. I said, "It's time to let her go." And we did.

I am missing my lovebug like crazy.


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Going on a Blog Hunt

Have you discovered that Google Reader is gone and that now you don't have an easy way to read the blogs you love without clicking all around the interwebs?

I switched to Bloglovin as my blog reader. I like that it has a picture to show you a taste of what the post is about. It is also easy to click on a post, have it open in the Bloglovin frame, and use the buttons to move to the next unread post. You can categorize the blogs you read as well, so if you only have a few minutes, you could just read the blogs that are the same grade level as yours instead of wading through all the posts. (Assuming you have a looooong list of blogs you follow like I do.) Bloglovin also has an app that lets you check out the blogs you are stalking following anywhere, any time.

There is a button on top of the column just to your right that will let you follow my blog using Bloglovin.

Here's your chance to check out some great blogs that might be new to you. Laura Candler is hosting a linky for elementary blogs. Go check them out! Make sure you follow Laura's blog, Chalkboard Connections, if you don't already! She is fabulous!


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Saturday Snapshots on Sunday

I'm a day late on linking up with Miss Nelson's Got the Camera, but I wanted to join in anyway. Better late than never, right?

I've had a DSLR camera for 2 years, but haven't mastered it. Now that I have some time, it is on my to-do list. Please leave me links for sites that have good tutorials!

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Sunset at Waikiki Beach



Lost Maples State Park in Texas, not too far from my home




Lupines in Talkeetna, Alaska



Sunset at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii




Go check out all the other pictures!


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July Currently

It's time for Farley's Currently linky!


Listening - ever since we went to Alaska 2 years ago, tv programs about Alaska catch my eye. I love saying, "We were there!"

Loving - We had game night last night with a group of dear friends. We played Cards Against Humanity. Definitely for adults, and I laughed so hard I . . .  well, you know.

Thinking - I love summer. Being able to sleep late, eat lunch out if I want, no kids. Life is good!

Wanting - Desi is my golden retriever with cancer. We've had 7 weeks since her diagnosis. I am hoping for many more.

Needing - Doesn't everyone have one of those rooms? The one where you dump everything to keep the rest of the place clean? No? Just me? Never mind. Move along.

Tips - After a long day at school, you go home and crash. You need to blog, but don't have any inspiration. Keep a notepad by you to list the things that happen during your day.

Now, go link up with Farley! Be sure to follow the Rule of Three!


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Blogger Meet Up

I had so much fun at the San Antonio Blogger Meet Up Wednesday. Angela Watson from Cornerstone for Teachers and Denise Boehm from Sunny Days in Second Grade were here for ISTE, so some of the local folks met with them for dinner at Mi Tierra.


It is so much fun to put faces and voices to names and blogs.

Starting on the left and going around the table:


Reagan's husband and sweet son were also with us, but declined to appear on camera - in fact, Reagan's son took this picture!

We enjoyed margaritas, food, and talk about the conference, blogging, Teachers Pay Teachers, networking, and so much more.

Keep your eyes open for news of a meet up near you and go. I promise you won't feel out of place, no matter where you are on your blogging journey.

P.S. Starting Monday, if you  have been reading my blog through Google Reader, you won't be able to do so any longer. Many bloggers are switching over to Blog Lovin' as a new reader. There's a link in the top right column if you'd like to continue reading me there.
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My Teacher Always Says . . .

Forever in First is having a great linky party, so I decided to join in.

She want us to tell about those things we always say. You know, the sayings the kids chime in on when you start out and can finish without you.

I have a few of these. Behold!

In Texas, this one rhymes:



 I am particularly known for repeating the following mantra after chiding students for not following directions.



Now it's your turn! Go link up and let us hear what you say!
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Best Laid Plans

I planned to blog more this month. Those plans were waylaid.

I was out of school a week ago Friday because I had jury duty in the tiny city I live in. They needed 6 people for the jury and I was number 10. So I got to leave early! (There weren't any other trials that day - tiny city, remember?) I went home and only one golden retriever came to greet me. This is quite odd. Desi always comes to the door when I get home. So I went looking and found her in the living room. Her abdomen was very distended, so I checked her gums and they were almost white. These are signs of internal bleeding.

I quickly called my vet and told them I was on the way. Once there, they did a quick exam and sent me to the emergency pet hospital, about 15 minutes away. She had a tumor on her spleen that had ruptured and was filling her belly with blood.

They did emergency surgery to remove the spleen after first doing a chest xray to be sure there was no metastasis to her lungs. They found about 4.5 liters of blood in her abdomen and a huge tumor on the spleen. They removed the spleen and sent off a specimen for biopsy.

Desi spent 3 nights and 4 days at the emergency vet. The lab report came back as hemangiosarcoma, a form that, unfortunately is found all too often in older golden retrievers. This type of tumor is highly malignant and has probably already metastasized. We can do chemo, but that only delays the inevitable by a month or so. We may have 2 weeks; we may have 6 months. But Desi will be crossing Rainbow Bridge way too soon.



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May Currently

Today is May 1st, which makes it time to link up with Farley for her Currently linky!



  • Listening to Survivor. Yes, I am a reality show junky. Amazing Race, Top Chef, Project Runway, and Survivor are my crack. Plus a little trash - Real Housewives, Atlanta. They are so awful!
  • Loving that the end of the year is near. I am retiring this year, and I have so much to do before June 7th!!
  • Thinking that I need to get on that teacher material sale and stop procrastinating. I already have 2 storerooms and a garage full of teaching materials. They need to go!
  • Wanting that Krispy Kreme doughnut that is calling my name. My best bestie picked up a few yesterday and the raspberry filled one is singing a siren song!
  • Needing to get rid of this darn cold! I was so sick during STAAR testing and the allergies around here don't help. I'm tired of sounding like I could sing bass in a barbershop quartet. And the coughing! Needs to go!
  • Summer bucket list? Enjoy retirement!

Now, go visit the party!


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In Which I Feel Incredibly Old

My teaching partner has been out a couple of days over the last few weeks. Both times, the substitute teachers were kids I remember from teaching third grade lo these many years ago. The sweet young ladies weren't in my class, but they were wonderfully memorable as great students. They are both continuing on with their educations, and subbing offers some decent money.

I told the kids who they were, in hopes they'd be easy on them.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Sorry, ladies.

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Winnie-the-Pooch

Note: This was originally shared on my friend Daliene's blog. Today I am publishing it in order to link up at Funky Junk's linky party that honors her kitty, Teddy.

I kept my eyes fixed on the ground, knowing the puddle of tears would spill over if I made eye contact with Dr. Hörger’s sympathetic gaze. I could hear him speaking, but my mind just couldn’t seem to comprehend his words. Here for a routine blood draw, I hadn’t expected to hear this kind of news.

“Thyroid cancer . . . advanced . . . invasive . . .” These words finally penetrated my consciousness like bullets fired from a gun.

Vaguely aware of talk of surgery, I collected myself enough to ask, “What would you do if she were yours?”

He hesitated before replying, “I can’t answer that for you. She is old—fourteen is ancient for a dog her size. She might not even survive the surgery. Plus, I can’t guarantee that I can remove the entire tumor.” He went on to explain the difficulty of the surgery. Winnie would have a large incision and would require care after the operation, necessitating a stay of several days at the clinic. She hated being away from home, I thought.

“And if we don’t operate?” I heard myself ask, needing to know it all.

“I’d say we’re looking at two to four months,” he gently replied.

The tears flowed freely then. Dr. Hörger patted my shoulder and told me to think over the two options that night. “Sleep on it,” he said.

Sleep on it? Was he crazy? I knew he meant well, but I also knew there’d be no sleep for me.

Winnie, of course, had no idea there was anything wrong with her. Her goofy grin and polite handshake charmed the receptionists once again as I wrote the check. We walked to the car, her wagging tail counting cadence as usual.

At home, I sat next to my friend, stroking her long black fur, pondering the impossible. How could I make this life or death decision for a creature so devoted? I felt as if, in a way, I owed her my life. The months after my divorce would have been unbearable without the distractions of raising a puppy. She gave me the unconditional love my broken heart needed so desperately.

I contemplated life without Winnie-the-Pooch. I tried to imagine going to the bathroom unaccompanied, walking through the house without pausing to step over the speed bump her body created in the hallways, spending fewer hours vacuuming black tumbleweeds during shedding season. Just then she looked up at me with her warm, brown eyes as if to say, I trust you completely.

I made my decision. I would spare her the pain of a potentially fruitless surgery. Instead, she would live the rest of her days spoiled beyond compare. The unrelenting efforts to keep her figure svelte would cease; she would eat whatever piqued her interest. We’d go for frequent rides in the car, one of her favorite adventures, and for slow walks in the neighborhood, where she could sniff and explore to her heart’s content.

The next day I called Dr. Hörger’s office to inform him of my decision. He warned me that the tumor would continue to grow and would eventually begin to affect Winnie’s ability to eat and to breathe. We discussed the activities that signaled quality of life for her so that I would know when it was time to let her go. At the end of the conversation, I renewed my vow to make these last months pleasurable.

I can only believe that Winnie knew how I would mourn her loss. She lasted not only the four months Dr. Hörger had predicted, but also an additional year beyond that time.

As the vet warned, Winnie’s tumor continued to enlarge, pressing against her windpipe and causing her to pant in attempts to gain enough air. Our slow walks became shorter and shorter and finally stopped altogether, as the least exertion required more and more energy. She spent less time interacting with me and more time sleeping.

Finally, one night her labored breathing kept us both awake. She kept shifting position, trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. I mentally reviewed the signs of quality of life Dr. Hörger and I had discussed and knew it was time. The next morning I called the clinic and made arrangements to take her in.

As she lay on the table, I removed her worn leather collar, stroked her head, kissed her nose one last time, and told her I loved her. I thanked her for being such a good friend, and then I watched her drift away.

Winnie gave me more love than I could have ever given her. Setting her free was my way of repaying the debt.

I have had other dogs since Winnie – Lucy, Desi, and Hannah. I love each one, but none will ever be Winnie, my heart dog.


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Task Cards at Saturday Camp

I was at camp the past 2 Saturdays! Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Well, it was. For the fourth graders who came!

We had our last push before Reading and Math STAAR testing this week.

We invited 50 of our students who could use a little more motivation before the test and rotated them through 30 minute long sessions to review some skills that we knew they needed some help with. We made them hands-on and fun. We spent from 8-12 each day, so students were exposed to 3 math and 3 reading activities each day.

I planned the reading activities. I knew right where to go to get components for a couple of great games.

We played fact/opinion basketball with Rachel Lynnette's great task cards.



I created a 2 point line and a 3 point line on the floor with masking tape. I divided the group into 2 teams. The kids got to shoot a Dollar Tree soft ball into a trashcan from one of the lines after correctly answering a question. They loved this activity!

We also played a board game with some more of Rachel's task cards.  For this one, we used the author's purpose cards.


I made game boards from her freebie game board download. Isn't this board cute? I found some fun little birds at Dollar Tree to use as game pieces.




I own tons of Rachel's task cards and we use them in so many ways in my class. Go check out her blog and see how others have used them, too!


Photobucket
And please keep your fingers crossed that my kids do well on their tests!

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Currently April

It is time to link up with Farley for her monthly Currently!



I can't believe the Baylor women's team lost! Hating on some refs, right now, I must say. But my Tennessee Lady Vols made it through to the next round!

I just love me a three day weekend. Are you sure we can't have one every week?

We are planning 2 Saturday half-day camps for a last minute push before the STAAR reading and math tests. Anybody got some great games for fourth grade reading?

We take the writing test this week. I am skeeered. Nuff said.

I have not been motivated to finish grading. Tomorrow will be a mini-marathon before grades are due. Sigh.

When I read a blog, I don't want to just see an ad for your products. Show me pictures of it in use and tell me how you implemented it. I am much more likely to buy!

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. I will play my standard trick on the kids by putting a giant green mark on my cheek with a marker. Then, when the kids tell me I have a mark on my face, I can just say, "Sure. April Fool's. You want me to look in a mirror. I get it." They hate it!

Get on over to Farley's and link up! Don't forget her Rule of Three!


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Bobby Hill

Have any of you ever watched the show "King of the Hill?" I have the funniest boy who looks exactly like Bobby on that show. He is the sweetest kid and does the oddest things, making me laugh on a regular basis.

The other day, he got mad at another kid and came up to me and said, " ---- needs to get out of my f'ing face!" Only he didn't abbreviate it. I asked him to go get his planner, and before I wrote in it, I asked him if he knew what that word meant. He told me he heard it all the time in his games. I told him it was a curse word. He morphed into the face from the Edward Munsch painting, The Scream. Then I told him it was one of the worst curse words to use. He immediately said that he didn't mean to do that. I told him I knew it, but I had to write in his planner. I wrote that he had used an inappropriate word and that he should tell his parents exactly what he said and discuss it with them.

The next morning, he came in and oh, so earnestly told me that his father said he should apologize again for using the word. The look of disgust on his face when he told me that Dad had explained exactly what it meant was priceless. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.

I think he won't curse in class again any time soon.

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Proud to be a Texas Blogger . . . and more!

Lucky me! Spring Break is here!

We spent 4 days doing district testing. I am so proud of my kids. Their scores in reading were fantabulous. We also posted gains in writing, but not enough for my comfort. And we only have 2 weeks of instruction before the test. Yikes!

I spent last night at a game night and slumber party. My real life friends know that I am a women's basketball fan. I have had season tickets to the WNBA Silver Stars for 10 years, but they only play in the summer. So to feed my addiction, I've been attending one of our local university's women's games in the winter/spring. Two of us in my group of friends who attend have won a one night stay at a local hotel, so we've used those vouchers to have a group party.

Last night, 9 of us got together in a mini-suite and played Taboo. It was so much fun! We brought adult beverages and snacks and just had a great old time. The room sleeps 6, but only 2 of us stayed all night. Then we capped the fun off by meeting up for breakfast the next morning. I had chilaquiles - eggs cooked with hot sauce and broken tortilla chips, with refried beans and Mexican style fried potatoes. Boy, was it good!

Monday we leave for the team's conference tournament in Las Vegas! I am traveling with Farley's momma and daddy and we will meet up with some of our other friends there.

Posting will be light until I return. However, you can locate some great blogs to check out here!




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